Torin’s Passage is a point-and-click adventure game developed and published by Sierra On-Line in 1995. The game was designed by Al Lowe, author of the Leisure Suit Larry series.
The game starts off with some royalty being killed by a wizard and what you assume is the royal baby being saved by a maid or something. She saves Torin, but is punished for this good deed by being shackled with a collar that keeps slowly tightening until it will eventually kill her. I think she then becomes evil or something and teams up with the wizard that killed the royal family, but honestly I sort of spaced out pretty quickly.
My main issue with this game was the story comes off as a generic fantasy crammed full of tropes but laid out in what feels like the laziest way possible. Torin grows up with farmers as his adopted parents, something happens, an evil sorceress captures your adopted family and you then need to go save them. This is done by traveling to the “lands below” by throwing magic powder at crystals that send you deeper and deeper into the earth.
Each chapter of the game represents your descent through the layers of the world as you slowly work your way to the core where your parents may be. This is done by completing fetch quest after fetch quest, solving a handful of puzzles and constantly backtracking.
This is pretty standard fare for a lot of adventure games, but everything in this game just sort of feels forced and a bit sloppy. I get that Al Lowe wanted to write a game that he could play with his young daughter, but the game he wrote seemed to just be a rip off of Who Framed Roger Rabbit and King’s Quest VII.
Adding insult to injury, the game just doesn’t look that good. For a game that came out in late 1995 I really expected a lot more. The UI is bland and takes up the lower third of the screen. Your inventory is always visible, and you can take any item in your inventory and put it on the center pedestal to “zoom in” and examine the items. Very few items are worth doing this with, and when you do the “lasers” (green circle things) on each side of the inventory shoot it for some reason.
Just look at it. If this were a game from the mid 80’s I’d be a lot more forgiving, but again … this is 1995 and Sierra has made a LOT of much MUCH better games. Weirdly enough the visual style of this game reminded more of the CD-i Zelda games more than anything else. Google some pictures from those games and tell me you don’t see it ;)
I mentioned this game reminded me of Roger Rabbit because you’ve got a sidekick throughout named Boogle that seems to provide the exact same style of comic relief. Sometimes it’s even identical (they lifted some lines and scenarios directly from the movie).
The Boogle character at least adds a bit of variety to the game as he can transform into things you can use to solve certain puzzles. Typically you’ll use each Boogle form exactly once though, so the amount of variety it adds is limited.
Unlike the Leisure Suit Larry games though, Torin’s Passage isn’t very funny - or for that matter, fun. From the time you start playing until the time you finally decide you’ve had enough and are ready to move on to a better game you’ll just feel like you’re going through the motions of playing a game.
I just didn’t find the writing to be all that compelling - and I am a fan of Al Lowe (including following him on Twitter). I’m not sure how actively involved he was in the actual content generation (since he was the director), but the game just felt derivative and slapped together.
What I did find a bit innovative was the built in hint system. You have a hint timer that you can configure, which after elapsing allows you to get a hint on how to proceed. If you’re newer to the genre this might come in handy as some of the puzzles are a bit obtuse and overly complex.
There are a couple puzzles at the end of Chapter 4 (I think that’s the right chapter) where you need to move these miniature dudes around in order to unlock (something). The whole “harmony” concept means you need to shuffle them around until you align them by colour, but which colours go where is not immediately obvious.
Once you finally solve this (likely with a walkthrough), you’ll then have to do basically the same fucking puzzle but instead by rotating 2 characters at a time to get them in descending orders. This took FOREVER, and was NOT FUN. I really, REALLY hate arbitrary puzzles that feel like padding. I don’t have a problem with challenging puzzles, especially if it feels like you’ve gained the tools to solve the puzzle by naturally playing the game.
When you finally muddle your way to the finale, the game just sort of ends (cuts to credits). Apparently this is because Al Lowe planned for Torin’s Passage to be the first of 5 games in a series. Obviously this never came to pass, and it’s likely because this game just wasn’t all that good.
Sierra Online made so many better games before this title came out, so it’s extremely disappointing to have to trudge through this turd. Boogle could have been a game changer if they’d incorporated him more deeply into the plot (or bothered to introduce him at all). The mechanic of having horizontal and vertical sliders so you can pan around a larger scene without having to walk around was interesting, but again, this wasn’t introduced. When you needed to actually use this panning mechanic to solve a puzzle it wasn’t obvious that this was how you approach the solution.
I would not recommend this title to anyone. It’s just not fun, or interesting, or innovative in any way. Some component pieces had promise and might have (or possible DID) work better in other games, but Torin’s Passage isn’t worth anyone’s time today.
|October 31, 1995
|DOS, Windows 3.x, Windows 95, Mac OS
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